Ella – a charming, little hillside town with a very friendly and local feel, surrounded by bright green tea fields, waterfalls, and amazing and very doable walking trails. You need to go! For the budget backpacker, accommodation in Ella can be very expensive ($20-$60 per night for something very basic)! Luckily though, there are many things to do in Ella that are completely free! I spent three nights in Ella, which is plenty of time, giving you two full days to explore the tiny and charming town on the hillside.
Bring a rain jacket, thermals, and some good shoes, because you are bound to get cold and wet and muddy in Ella! It can rain a bit in Ella, in fact it pretty much a torrential downpour the entire time I was there (March)! Ella is the place for outdoor activities! I spent my time there walking among the tea fields, and up the hill trails. The main attractions are: the Nine Arch Bridge, Little Adams Peak, and Ella Rock. Two days is more than enough time to see all of these sites, and they are completely free to do! You do not need guides, and you do not even need to get tuk tuks to them (although I saw some people doing that). Nuwara Eliya, another hill country town, slightly bigger and a few hours train ride away is where you want to go for looking at the tea factories.
How much time do you need in Ella?
If you set off early enough in the day (say, 7:30-8am) it is fairly feasible to do all three of these attractions in one day (all going well). I saw Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adams Peak in one day, which at a verrrry leisurely pace took us about 4 hours. Ella’s Rock should take around 4-5 hours including some time at the top. So it is possible to spend only 1 night in Ella, at a huge push! However, I wouldn’t recommend it. I spent three nights due to trying to wait out the rain, but I think two, or three nights would be pretty perfect!
Go you need a guide?
No, you really don’t! There is plenty of information on the internet and in guide books about what to see and do in Ella. It’s such a small place, it would be quite hard to get lost! There are also sign posts to the attractions, written in English, and of course you are bound to see other tourists walking the same trails as you.
If you are breaking it into two days, Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adams Peak are very near each other, so to me it made sense doing them together. I walked to Nine Arch Bridge first as it was the furthest uphill away from my accommodation, and the Little Adams Peak trail finished closer to my accommodation. The start of the trail to Ella’s Peak is about a 1.5-2km downhill and then mostly uphill walk from Little Adam’s Peak. Like me, you may want to save it for another day! If you try to take a tuk tuk, be prepared to fork out a lot of money! Tuk tuk drivers don’t come by cheaply in Ella!
have you got Maps.me? If not, you should download it. You really must get it! It is free and has many walking trails and shortcuts on it. I use it all over the world! Just remember to download the map for each region when you have internet. Once you have downloaded the maps for Sri Lanka, you do not need internet to use it! Many walking trails are logged into Maps.me, so put your route in, as you would in Google Maps, and press go, and it will give you a route through the tea fields!
Nine Arch Bridge
I’m sure there are plenty of these bridges in Europe, however this one is still worth seeing! The bridge crosses a gully that is covered in perfectly aligned tea bushes, pine trees and banana trees . It really is a beautiful scene. There is a young man who lives on the hill, overlooking the bridge, he runs a small cafe out of his home. You can watch or wait for the train over a pot of tea on the hillside. If you desire a photo of this bridge with a train on it, make sure you look up the timetable before you go! I do know a train is meant to cross each day at 1:30pm, but give yourself some extra time, as the train we waited for was 45 minutes late! However, apparently it is also known for being early.
The walk to the bridge is easy, although the track is pretty greasy when it has been raining so bring some good shoes! There are sign posts the whole way directing you to the bridge. Depending on where you are starting from, it may also be easier for you to just follow the train tracks the whole way! I will follow up with a post on the specifics of how to get there!
If you are walking to Adams Peak next, take this turn off through the tea plantations. This is a screen shot off Maps.me:
Little Adams Peak
This hike is very easy. It consists mainly of a gradual uphill gravel road through tea plantations, followed by 317 steps uphill. The views along the way are incredible and green, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to hear drumming and music coming from a small hillside community as you walk up. At the top you get a front-on view of Ella’s Rock. Once you reach the top, you can continue along the ridge of the hill to another little peak. This is fairly flat and not strenuous. It gives you a slightly different view looking towards Ella’s Rock. If you were to complete this hike without including the Nine Arch Bridge, it would take you 1 hour 45 mins at a leisurely pace.
Unfortunately it was absolutely pouring down with rain the day I was set to do this hike, so we didn’t end up getting there. I met someone who did it and they said Little Adams Peak was a easier and more scenic and beautiful walk. He said Ella Rock was more of a hike. The prize is at the end, getting a view of all of Ella, and looking down on Little Adam’s Peak. This hike is also not too strenuous, but it is two hours of walking uphill and through Eucalyptus trees to get to the top. At the start of the hike, and as far as I got, it was well sign posted. However, apparently after a while it becomes confusing as locals cover paths to try and persuade you into taking a guide. You do not need a guide. Use Maps.me! I was disappointed I didn’t get to do it. Please let me know how to found it! 🙂